Editor’s note: Ben Knight is a former writer for TV.com and an expert on all things television. He’s the person that skews the “Average hours of TV watched” statistics.
There are very few shows that can be legitimately terrifying and horrifically surreal. SyFy’s new show Channel Zero has managed to do that.
Channel Zero comes from Nick Antocsca (Hannibal) and Max Landis (Masters of Horror) and airs on the SyFy Channel. It is an anthological show about internet urban legends known as creepypastas.
Season One tells the story of Candle Cove,a supposed show in the early 70’s that had a brief stint in early afternoons. According to the story, only a few “special” children could see Candle Cove, and in turn the kids would murder others around them.
Channel Zero: Candle Cove tells the story of Mike Painter, a child psychologist who becomes wrapped up in a case that he believes might be tied to a show called Candle Cove. No one else really seems to be able to remember the show clearly except for him and the last time the show appeared was in 1988 and resulted in a string of murders and some other strange occurrences.
Channel Zero lends itself to non traditional horror tropes such as overall light tones while intermixing with bouts of tense, dark horror imagery with traditional monsters and footage from the show Candle Cove. While not uncommon (Stranger Things did a similar film style) it perfectly encapsulates what the show is trying to be in a storytelling sense. The focus on the story is not in the slasher moments and jump scares with creatures literally appearing over your bed, but the discussions that are caused by Painter’s current case and a look back into the Candle Cove murders previously.
People in the town are all in some way affected by the Candle Cove murders and disappearances in their own ways, The usage of smooth, transitions to flashbacks to the previous cases are not used so much as to provide linear context to the current day mystery, but to show the state of mind that each character is in and how the events in the 80’s affected them.
While Candle Cove is a show that can be seen by the kids, Channel Zero is not necessarily about
them in a direct sense. While Lily is the focus of the current day investigation, she is not often seen until there is a need to bring in the Candle Cove story or have the Tooth Monster make an appearance.
Isolation is a key aspect in the children that are being drawn into the Candle Cove show and a pertinent fear among the adults. Technology is a common fear among people when dealing with communication. All parents want to do is to be able to connect and communicate with their children. And in the 21st century we are all surrounded by television, computers and smartphones, we often fear that this line of communication will be lost to electronics. Candle Cove builds on this fear by creating an enemy in the machine. A show that can only be seen by children and actively isolates them from society and turns them into cult-like murders puts that fear into a real, tangible setting and pivots the show away from being a straight slasher flick into something that is more psychological in nature.
Channel Zero is a nice return for disenfranchised horror fans that are turned away from the bland attempts at horror American Horror Story keeps trying to pull off season to season or the broadcast network attempts at horror with such shows as The Exorcist on FOX. You are more apt to get a Twilight Zone vibe from the series or even be reminded of such horror classics as The Ring, or Poltergeist. Creepypastas are an untouched treasure of stories that are ripe for adaptation as long as it is done well. And if Channel Zero is any indication, they are in the right hands.
As of this writing, all six episodes of Channel Zero are available to stream on syfy.com